Jan 26, 2010
Since it was such an epic game, and since I’m a Viking fan who was in attendance, I feel the need to write up a quick review of the game, and some of my thoughts.
First of all, I was wrong about the keys to the game, and I was wrong about my premise that the Vikings had only a prayer (although I’m sure my tortured past as a Viking fan contributed to my pessimism). People like to take shots at the “experts” when their analysis is wrong, but as long as the analysis is viable and reasonable, what else is there to go by? People who have “gut feelings” are usually misguided. One can only call the game as one see it based on personnel, scheme, and other mitigating factors. But in the end it’s still football, and in this case championship football. For example, it would have been far more of a stretch to say the shaky Viking secondary was going to limit the high-flying Saint passing game, as they did, than to say what I said (the opposite). The Minnesota secondary and overall defense did just that, but that really couldn’t have been predicted based on the information available before the opening kickoff. Sometimes, in a huge game, an offense can be compressed and play a little tight, and that would describe the Saints on Sunday. I do give major credit to the Viking defense because they played a hell of a game. Might the game be different if they had LB E.J. Henderson? I’m not sure because they really played well without him. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is great, which probably means he’ll be gone (hired by Buffalo, perhaps), like most good Viking coordinators wind up being (like two Super Bowl winning coaches Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin).
Minnesota gave the Saints all they could handle, but in true Viking fashion, it wasn’t enough. This team continues to find new ways to lose big games in devastating fashion. Leave it to the Vikings to have one of the NFL’s best defenses, have one of the most talented RBs to ever play score 3 TDs in the game, and to somehow land one of the league’s greatest players of all time to quarterback them – and watch him have arguably his best season – and it’s still not enough. Leave it to the Vikings to out-play a very good team in their own stadium and keep one of the best QBs of our time to fewer than 200 yards passing, but to shoot themselves in the foot. Leave it to the Vikings to likely win a road title game with 4 turnovers, but to have 5 of them. And based on some questionable calls on the final drive of the game, leave it to the Vikings to also get screwed themselves. Heck, leave it to the Vikings to lose the coin toss in a situation in which it was obvious that the first team with the ball in OT was going to win.
I mentioned last week that my fandom has been reduced probably 70% based on my occupation, but I must admit the pain of my childhood rooting for this team, the ’87 championship game, the ’98 title game, and the ’00 title game, coupled with this loss has been tough to swallow. It’s especially tough for me because I already had plans to take my wife to the Super Bowl this year. I’m going to the game one week from Sunday, that’s been locked in for weeks for me. As I was watching the Vikes drive down the field for the potential game-winning FG or TD, I kept thinking to myself “Are the Vikings really going to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1977, and am I really going to be at the game?”
Sadly, even when they were in Ryan Longwell’s range with less than a minute to go in the contest, I kept telling myself “you know, probably not.” Over the course of the second half, I kept telling the very concerned Saint fans around me not to worry because the Vikings wouldn’t win this game. For one, because they are the Vikings, but most importantly because no team deserves to win a title game when it turns the ball over 5 times, and when it fumbles 6 times, ESPECIALLY the Vikings. Even though the Vikings played better on both sides of the ball, the Saints deserved to win, and the Vikings deserved to lose.
I am happy for the Saint fans. I love the city, and I’ve always liked the team. As I partied with their fans on Bourbon Street Saturday night, I discussed with many of them how we feel each other’s pain, but if any city and team deserved to win on just pain alone, I’d say New Orleans and the Saints did. And obviously, there are more important things in life than a football game.
And as disappointed as I was in the outcome, being at the game was special. I watched the game on TV when I returned home yesterday and the sounds and pictures paled in comparison to the real thing. For one, the crowd noise doesn’t come close to coming across on TV. I was amazed Minnesota could even complete one pass given the noise, not to mention 28 of them. The drama was surreal, and the pure joy felt by Saint fans was palpable. Watching the game on TV yesterday, it was a snooze-fest compared to being there.
It was also worth it just to see Brett Favre play live, something I’ve never had the pleasure of doing before Sunday. I’ve always recognized him, obviously, but I’ve never been one to praise him glowingly, due in large part to the factors his critics always point out. I know he annoys the hell out of some people, and that last pick was terrible. But Brett Favre deserves all the accolades. For one, he’s the toughest player to ever play NFL football. Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkas, Chuck Bednarik – whoever. Favre’s tougher. In the history of mankind, there will never be another player like him at his position. His consecutive games played streak will never be broken by anyone other than maybe a kicker, not to mention by a QB. And the guy can play a little, too. His 2009 season was one of the most impressive campaigns ever for any player, given his age, and he delivered for the Vikings when it mattered most. He should be praised after this one, not chastised. That’s right, my opinion of Favre INCREASED after this game. I don’t blame him for the loss. Did anyone notice he got the living crap kicked out of him in the game and kept on coming? For some players, what makes them great also makes them a train wreck at times, and some people just can’t grasp that. I understand an argument can be made that he doesn’t deserved to be in the “Greatest QB of all time” conversation because of his ugly turnovers, but if you can’t recognize Favre as one of the best football players ever then you’re just a hater, period.
I’m indifferent on whether or not he’ll come back, but if I were Favre, I’d hang them up. He gave it a great shot, but these are the Minnesota Vikings, they’re not meant to win a Super Bowl, and they’re meant to disappoint their fans.
That’s why my 2010 prediction for the Vikings is this: Favre will retire, and they’ll trade for Donovan McNabb. McNabb will have a good year, and they will go 11-5 or 12-4 and make the playoffs, and expectations will be high.
And you just know how it’s going to go from there.